Cookbook by TV chef re-imagines old recipes

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Loved by countless Food Network fans for her delicious Italian cooking and her endearing spunk, Giada De Laurentiis recently released her fifth cookbook, “Giada At Home.”

Her previous cookbook, “Giada’s Kitchen,” included twists on traditional Italian recipes, as well as lighter alternatives to the typically heavy Italian dishes.

In the cookbook, which was released at the end of March, De Laurentiis experiments with beloved recipes that have been passed down through her family and also creates new recipes incorporating flavors from California, where she currently lives.

However, this theme creates a problem for those who are not inhabitants of the sunny state. Although California is known for being at the forefront of prestigious American cuisine, the state’s flavors and ingredients are not necessarily available to the other 49.

With that said, California has undoubtedly influenced communities through its embrace of local ingredients and sustainability — two aspects that De Laurentiis herself has factored into her cooking with summer and seasonal flavors.

I tried the recipes for the grilled asparagus and melon salad; creamy risotto with mushrooms and Gorgonzola; and a panino with mozzarella, raspberries and brown sugar.

Although combining melon with asparagus may seem unappealing, it is a refreshing, unique take on traditional ingredients. By using pine nuts, prosciutto and mozzarella, De Laurentiis has created a beautiful balance of numerous sections of the food pyramid. However, make sure the melon is not overly ripe or under-ripe; the mushy or rigid texture could ruin a salad like this.

The mozzarella, raspberry and brown sugar panino is also a delicious creation. The relatively cheap and easily accessible ingredients make this panino something students on a budget can create. Even though De Laurentiis does not mention it, cooks should not feel confined to use raspberry jam. In a recipe like this, any favorite jam will work.

Lastly, even though De Laurentiis has created an appetizing Gorgonzola and porcini mushroom risotto, she fails to venture beyond a traditional Italian

risotto. Much like other risottos, this one employs the use of mushrooms and Italian cheeses — and lacks the innovation and creativity De Laurentiis is known and loved for.

Although there are areas that could use improvement in her new book, her ability to create delicious Italian recipes has not vanished, and “Giada’s Kitchen” is worth purchasing for anybody who loves Italian cuisine.

Grade: A-